CAMPAIGNERS have warned that new figures showing another sharp rise in fly-tipping "are just the tip of the iceberg".

According to data released by the government, local authorities dealt with almost one million incidents of waste dumped illegally on publicly-owned land in 2019/20.

But the statistics do not include cases of fly-tipping on privately-owned sites.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 28,000 rural businesses in England and Wales, says the figures fail to reflect the true extent of the problem.

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight saw 24,929 incidents of fly-tipping in 2019/20 - an increase of almost 9% on the figure for 2018/19.

Southampton's total rose from 11,400 to 11,824.

Other areas which saw increases included the Test Valley (up from 1,138 to 1,454), Winchester (up from 770 to 1,089 and the New Forest (up from 915 to 923). The number of cases in Fareham rose from 181 to 307.

But CLA president Mark Bridgeman said: “While these figures are alarming, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

"They do not reflect the true scale of this type of organised crime, which blights our rural communities.

"Part of the problem is that it’s currently too simple to gain a waste carrying licence that enables firms to transport and dispose of waste.

"This needs urgent reform with correct checks put in place. A revamped system would act as a deterrent.”

One CLA member is having to pay £50,000 a year for rubbish such as tyres, fridges, tents, barbecues and building waste to be cleared.

Mr Bridgeman added: “Although the maximum fine for anyone caught fly-tipping is £50,000 or 12 months' imprisonment, if convicted in a magistrates' court, this is seldom enforced.

"Unless tougher action is taken to combat this kind of rural crime, it will continue to increase.”

The figures cover the period from April 2019 to March 2020.

Heaps of fly-tipped waste were found in towns and cities across the country. The most common size was the equivalent of a small van load and accounted for 34% of all cases.

Roads and pavements were the most common places for illegal dumping to occur, with cases accounting for 43% of all incidents.

Campaigners fear the figures for 2020/21 could turn out to be even worse, largely as a result of the pandemic.

As infection rates rose council-owned tips were temporarily closed but many of the people forced to stay at home turned to spring cleaning, gardening and DIY.